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Apple causes ‘religious’ reaction in brains of fans, say neuroscientists (digitaltrends.com)
61 points by nprincigalli on May 19, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 22 comments

I suspect that this was originally intended as a bit of fun, not to be taken seriously. Alas, it's being reported as if it were serious and I feel like someone must point out the obvious, grievous flaws:

According to the article, the finding is based on an MRI of exactly one subject, Alex Brooks. Brooks seems to be exceptionally ardent and there's nothing to suggest he is at all representative of anyone but himself. It is never really safe to draw broad conclusions from studying one subject. But it is ridiculous to do so with someone you've specifically selected because they are exceptional.

Yet even if Brooks were representative, there's nothing within the article to suggest that the brain activity detected has anything specifically to do with religious thoughts or feelings. Yes, those areas light up when religious images are shown to religious people. But there are obvious alternate explanations that aren't addressed. Perhaps those areas of the brain light up when shown familiar visual stimuli. An Apple fan strongly recognizes an iMac. A Jesus fan strongly recognizes the crucifix. Or perhaps this brain activity is just caused by seeing something you like. You could control against these confounding factors, but they evidently have not.

Basically, unless the article has glossed over a lot, there is no finding here at all and this is the BBC pretending at science.

>You could control against these confounding factors, but they evidently have not

How do you know they haven't? I would presume a team of neuroscientists would know better than not do that unless I find reason to believe otherwise.

From the article: > Previously, the scientists had studied the brains of those of religious faith

It would be interesting to see the results of that study to see if it contains details of controlling for the factors you mention.

Not only their fans. For some reason almost nobody can look at Apple and their products objectively. It's love/hate.

My best guess is that people who care about little details like 2 volume levels for headphones & speakers, pausing your iPod when you unplug the headphones, etc. really love Apple (that's the case with me), so when we go off about how great they are someone else who sat down at a Mac with a default config couldn't right click, maximize a window, etc. and hated it, it makes him hate it even more because to him it's blind Apple love. Nobody could possibly love such a hamstrung system in the hater's eyes, and in the lover's eyes Apple can do no wrong. So the rift widens because of the strong opposing feelings. Talking often makes it worse.

I'm even worse: love and hate at the same time! Love my Apple ][, hate everything Mac, love iPod, hatehatehate iTunes. Would probably love iPhone if I wasn't too cheap to own anything more than a Tracfone.

Also, back before LANs were standardized I worked on a AppleTalk server that ran on PCs. Love AFP and ATP!!

Simpler put: the Apple brand has super-strong name recognition. Well-known political figures who dominate the media elicit similar reactions (Obama, Palin, etc) This is a sign of success for Apple's marketing. It's also a sign of a media-oversaturated society that shows no signs of becoming less so.

Can't wait to see them try this with Emacs and Vi users.

Or, Religion causes an "Apple" reaction in believers brains. I don't think it's fair that a certain brain activity is named after the stimulus that came first.

Is the Jobs .... the Job? :p

I guess fanatism is fanatism after all, no matter if it's about hardware companies or religion.

We want to believe, lol.

Reminds me of this quote from Simon Sinek:

"People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it."

He uses Apple quite a bit in his analogy here:


The page asks for a permission to install a Chrome extension. That really causes a reaction in my brains.

Not surprising at all, but 'religious' is a pretty poor descriptor. And this has been around for a while.

I agree, a better way to describe it is loyalty beyond reason.

People react to images they care strongly about.

Film at eleven.

Apple study causes 'confirmation bias' in brains of Apple detractors, say high-status people with valuable credentials.

It's not unique to Apple. Nike, Porsche, Mercedes, BMW, Yankees, and many others do the same thing. It's known as cult branding. There's a good book on it called" The Power of Cult Branding" by Mathew Ragas.

Many companies try it, but very very few succeed. Nike, MB, BMW and the Yankees don't count IMO. Apple, Porsche and Harley Davidson do, and I can't think of any other examples.

I'm going to have to disagree with you when you say "the Yankees don't count". Sport teams (at least in the USA) elicit a huge religion-esque response. I don't watch sports because it seems, to me, that most of the fans at games are caught in fanatical religious worship of their chosen team. It's depressing to see all their passion directed at something non-contributive like sports.

I can see why you might say Yankees don't count, but I think sports teams do count as brands.

There are others--Leica cameras, Rolex, Starbucks, Linux, Vans, Star Trek/Wars.

I don't think it's something you set out to attain, look at the airline Song for an example of how this backfires. I think being a cult brand is a status you attain after reaping several generations of loyal customers.

The first other one that actually came to my mind was Microsoft. I can't count the number of zealots I encountered that bowed before Microsoft software überness, regardless of how far you stick their nose through glaring deficiencies, refusing to even begin to consider any alternative, whatever the context.

The study itself does not surprise me the least. It's no wonder we describe such close-minded people zealots and fanatics, both terms having a religious history.

religion == fanatism

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